EU wants to regulate bloggers to stifle "unfair competition"

Whooooooo boy. Pissing off several tens of millions of people is really smart, Ms. Mikko.

This report (English, Finnish version here) drafted by Estonian MEP Marianne Mikko details how bloggers, those pesky creatures, are unfairly providing free content to consumers, thus stifling competition with the real media providers and how blogs could be used for evil, which why they should be regulated. Witness the following, highly enlightening quotes:

M. whereas commercial publications are increasingly utilising user-generated content, especially audiovisual content for a nominal fee, raising questions of unfair competition among media professionals,"


N. whereasthe increased use and reliance on user generated content may adversely affect the privacy of citizens and public figures by creating conditions of permanent surveillance,


O. whereas weblogs are an increasingly common medium for self-expression by media professionals as well as private persons, the status of their authors and publishers, including their legal status, is neither determined nor made clear to the readers of the weblogs, causing uncertainties regarding impartiality, reliability, source protection, applicability of ethical codes and the assignment of liability in the event of lawsuits,


P. whereas the Member States have widescope for interpreting the remit of the public service media and its financing and whereas the commercial media has expressed concerns over unfair competition,


9. Suggests clarifying the status, legal or otherwise, of weblogs and encourages their voluntary labelling according to the professional and financial responsibilities and interests of their authors and publishers;


In this context the report points out that the undetermined and unindicated status of authors and publishers of weblogs causes uncertainties regarding impartiality, reliability, source protection, applicability of ethical codes and the assignment of liability in the event of lawsuits.
It recommends clarification of the legal status of different categories of weblog authors and publishers as well as disclosure of interests and voluntary labelling of weblogs. The report acknowledges the spreading use for a nominal fee of user-generated content by the commercial publications and the privacy and competition issues this generates. It recommends compensating non-professionals commensurately to the commercial value they generate and using ethical codes to protect the privacy of citizens and public figures.

Well, boo-hoo. Finland has this wonderful saying of "the responsibility is entirely on the listener's side". Simple maths should show you that this is a completely inane idea: there are tens of millions of blogs in Europe. Most of them are pseudonymous. Most of them are written by people who write to their friends. Do you actually think they would care at all about what EU says?

While I do sort of understand the concern that some media outlets are using user-generated content without any regard to copyright (which should be addressed), I am entirely happy to share my content for free (you just need to observe the SA bit of the CC license). If that disrupts your business model, you might want to think of a new one instead of going to your MEP to cry and demand that it is unfair competition. Heck, I'm not competing with you. I am ignoring you.

Ms. Mikko seems to have bought the "citizenship journalism" -line with the hook and sinker, too. While some bloggers could be considered journalists, most of them simply aren't. So treating all weblogs like they were should be pretty much a non-starter. And considering that the definition of a weblog is so vague, there is no choice except to make sure that all content online would be regulated in the same way.

Which, while I am sure it would be the wet dream of any pencil-pushing bureucrat, will not happen. Even China can't do it.

I guess what really pisses me off about this memo is the idea behind it - that the media is so important we can't leave it to amateurs, since they might produce crap and we couldn't know who paid them to do so!

Yeah, the last point seems to also be quite important: the EU is worried of bloggers whose agenda is "not known". So what if people are not just saying their personal opinions? Of course it's unethical if they don't tell people, but hey - everybody lies. Should we have legislation on telling lies in the pub as well - that telling a pretty lady you're really an engineer even though you claim you're a fighter pilot?

The motives of a blogger don't matter much, because bandwidth is unlimited. Yes, the motives of the main TV news channel do matter, because TV is a controlled, restricted, serial medium. The internet isn't. Anybody can say anything (barring copyright, NDAs and libel), so if you're speaking bullshit, and you matter, you will have ten blogs shooting you down. But nobody is going to give you airtime on the telly if you oppose the channel policy.

As to the urging to increase media literacy in EU - that's the smartest suggestion I've seen in the entire paper. I suggest Ms. Mikko takes the first course, so she can see what the difference between an unknown pseudonym blogging about her dog, a media blogger, and a newspaper is.

(I'll leave the privacy issue untouched - running out of time to rant...)

(Thanks to Piraattiliitto.)


WTF? Luckily this ain't gonna fly.

--Erkka Piirainen, 25-Jun-2008

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"Main_blogentry_250608_1" last changed on 25-Jun-2008 10:12:19 EEST by JanneJalkanen.